Sunday 30 April 2017

Mourinho coy on Rooney amid fixture rant

Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United evades Shaun MacDonald of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United evades Shaun MacDonald of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho has launched another scathing attack on Manchester United's "crazy" fixture calendar and questioned how "the best country of world football" can preside over such a "nonsense" schedule.

Manchester United 4 Wigan Athletic 0

Although evasive on the subject of Wayne Rooney's future amid talk of the England captain moving to China next month, the United manager admitted Ashley Young could leave before the close of the transfer window tomorrow evening.

Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United passes the ball. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United passes the ball. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

But Mourinho was mostly preoccupied with United's expanding volume of games after a facile victory over Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford left the Portuguese with another game to navigate in an increasingly onerous fixture list.

Mourinho sarcastically claimed that a series of "nice gifts" awaited his side as he moved to highlight the advantage Southampton will have over United in the lead up to the League Cup final at Wembley on February 26, as well as Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League title race.

Liverpool are not in Europe and out of all domestic cup competitions and have just the league to concentrate on whereas United could play another 30 matches, excluding replays, if they also reach the finals of the FA Cup and Europa League.

"I can imagine we are going to have some nice gifts, like Watford today had an amazing gift," Mourinho said. "They played today and then have to play Tuesday in the Premier League. It's a laugh. How is it possible a team plays today and Tuesday?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United holds off Sam Morsy of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Manchester United holds off Sam Morsy of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

"It's absolutely nonsense. I know that this applies with many other clubs. Liverpool are going to play 16 matches, Chelsea will play 16 matches, plus some in the FA Cup and we are in this really crazy situation.

"I think Southampton will have 15 days without football before the final and we are going to have in these 15 days two matches against St Etienne (in the Europa League) and the next round of the FA Cup so the calendar in the best country of world football is nonsense.

"In a realistic way I think the Premier League is almost an impossible mission but I just think about winning the next match and the next match is not an impossible mission.

"In the League Cup we have a 50 per cent chance of winning it. In the FA Cup we are in last 16. In the Europa League we are in the last 32, so lots of matches to play."

Axel Tuanzebe of Manchester United is tackled by Stephen Warnock of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Axel Tuanzebe of Manchester United is tackled by Stephen Warnock of Wigan Athletic. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Mourinho may be forced to tackle that forbidding fixture list with a reduced squad, too, unless the potential departure of more players paves the way for a new arrival in the next 48 hours.

Watford, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United and Everton, as well as Chinese Super League clubs, are all interested in Young, who was omitted from the squad against Wigan as a consequence.

Doubts have also been cast over the future of Rooney, who has a £32m (€38m) a year offer on the table to move to China before their transfer window closes on February 28.

Asked about the prospect of Rooney, who was presented with a golden boot before kick-off by Bobby Charlton to commemorate breaking his United goalscoring record, leaving next month, Mourinho said: "The only player that I am aware of a possibility to leave, and I am waiting for 31 January to know what really is going on, is Ashley Young, a player that I would love to keep.

"I'm not happy at all if he leaves but he is the only player that I was informed there would be a possibility of him leaving. That's why I didn't play him, because I don't know if he's going to stay with us. If I could choose, yes definitely, he will stay with us."

Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney runs with the ball. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney runs with the ball. Photo: Getty Images

One United player who is going nowhere, for now at least, is Bastian Schweinsteiger. The midfielder, 32, capped a first start for the club in 385 days by scoring the game's fourth goal with an overhead kick of sorts to add some gloss to a scoreline that flattered Mourinho's side after a dogged display from Wigan.

With Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay having departed for Everton and Lyon respectively this month, Mourinho said Schweinsteiger would be included in the squad for the Europa League knockout stage.

Mourinho admitted United "did nothing" in the first half - he had substitutes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford warming up after just 16 minutes - and told his players as much at the interval.

Indeed, United were fortunate to lead 1-0 at half-time after Marouane Fellaini headed in Schweinsteiger's cross but they improved in the second half.

Anthony Martial had lasted just over half-an-hour at centre-forward but he was more effective once moved wide on the left and set up the second and third goals for Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Schweinsteiger added a fourth when he scooped Ander Herrera's knock-down over his head and in.

"We got all the things we wanted to do pretty much right for 44 minutes," said Wigan manager Warren Joyce, who was previously United's U-21 coach. Four-nil probably flatters United."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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